The motivation behind fat shaming

There’s a saying I love – You can’t hate people for their own good.

FatOne of the most widely accepted forms of judgment is fat shaming. I’ve written about this before – bits and pieces here and there. I’ve written about how you’d be hard-pressed to watch more than 15 minutes of television without hearing a fat joke. And just forget about social media. I wrote about how I apologize for being fat all the time because I need to get it out there first. I need people to know that I know I’m fat because then maybe I can avoid their opinions on it.

Fat shaming is accepted because society claims they want to help fat people. We have campaigns that want to combat childhood obesity by displaying posters and billboards and videos of fat kids and stating facts about how unhealthy they are. We have people who think it’s okay to dispense dieting tips to perfect strangers, people who defend the bullying of overweight people because “maybe it will motivate them,” people who honestly believe that you can know all you need to about a person just by looking at his or her size.

It’s okay to tell a fat person that she’s eating unhealthy food. It’s okay to tell her to put back the ice cream or lay off the McDonald’s because you’re just trying to help. But guess what. A fast food double cheeseburger isn’t a healthy choice for anyone, whether that person is 110 pounds or 410 pounds. But we don’t tell thin people to stop eating unhealthy food. We don’t care if thin people are unhealthy because at least they’re more visually appealing.

It’s okay to tell a fat person that he needs to exercise more. We can tell him to hit the gym, go for a walk, or quite simply, to get off his ass. I know a lot of “lazy” thin people, but nobody tells them to hit the gym, go for a walk, or to get off their asses. Exercise is healthy for everyone, not just fat people, but fat people are more likely to visually offend us, so it’s okay to call them out “for their own good.”

I watch Man vs. Food from time to time. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s pretty much a glorification of overeating anything that’s chock full of grease and fat. Adam Richman, the show’s host, goes from town to town checking out their glutton-inducing menu items. He ends each show with a food challenge, which usually has him shoveling a ton of food down his throat in a short period of time. It can be oddly entertaining and also incredibly disturbing.

When Adam visits each establishment, he talks to the locals. In almost every episode, he chats up a cute (and usually thin) female and she comments on how much she can eat. And he swoons. Something about thin women who can eat a lot is deemed incredible sexy and admirable.

As a teen, I fluctuated between 160 lbs. and 200 lbs. In hindsight, I was incredibly healthy – perfect blood pressure, no cholesterol, I walked everywhere . . . on the weekends, I would do the 8-mile walk around the river just for fun. Even with stopping at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to have a cigarette and run up the Rocky steps, I finished the walk in less than 2 hours. Yet every doctor I went to told me how I needed to lose weight. So, that’s what I tried to do.

It didn’t seem to matter how many salads I ate or if I only drank water or how much I worked out, I always struggled to lose those extra pounds. I did what many teenage girls do in that situation. I started loading my body with every diet pill I could find. I took laxatives. I puked after meals. I stopped eating all together.

I also listened to the boys talk at school. I read teen magazines that interviewed boys and asked them what kind of girls they liked. And I watched TV shows and movies that showed boys and girls dating. There was a theme that came up pretty frequently. “I want to date a girl who eats real food, not just rabbit food.”

One more example of the sexiness of thin girls with big appetites.

There was shame in being fat, not shame in being unhealthy.

There seems to be this idea that a fat person is not a complete person, and it has nothing to do with unhealthy eating or poor exercise habits. It has to do with an assault on what we find appropriately attractive. “She’d be beautiful, if she just lost the weight.” “She looks great now that she’s lost so much weight.” And so on and so forth.

I have a few very dear friends who have lost massive amounts of weight. They’re incredible. I am truly inspired by what they have accomplished. They are beautiful and amazing women. And they were beautiful and amazing women when they were 300+ lbs. Their weight loss has affected each of them in their own ways, but their stories belong to them. I do not and will not ever invalidate what they have done, but I will also never act is if the people they are now only exist because they are thin.

I am striving to lose weight, to get healthier, to make positive changes in my life. I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it because I don’t like where I am right now. And I will reach my goals. And I am sure the journey will impact the person I am, but I will still be me.

And whether I am 150 lbs. or 300+ lbs., I am a valid human being who is so much more than a number on a scale or someone else’s opinion of my physical appearance.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Oh I so can relate to these words! I’ve lost a lot of weight but like YOU, I am doing it for me! I want to be healthier so I can do the things I love and I can start a family and then be able to do things with my future children. I believe the only reason it is working and will STICK this time is because THIS time, it’s for me AND not to just lose weight to be accepted. I am still SHARON inside and out no matter what the outward appearance is. As someone who was bullied for my weight in school, I am saddened by people who think that teasing about someone’s weight motivates them. For every story out there about a small percentage who got motivated, there are hundreds more than ended up becoming bulimic, anorexic, hiding in a shell(like I did for awhile) and even people that end up committing suicide because they just can’t take it. I got close to that point once and I am thankful everyday that I didn’t do that. Fat Shaming is definitely one thing in our world that has NOT changed enough!

    Reply

    • It’s funny how our posts yesterday were pretty much two sides to one coin. Great minds again 🙂

      It astounds me how many people are okay with ridiculing a person because of weight – the same people who would never conceive of ridiculing someone for any other reason.

      “For every story out there about a small percentage who got motivated, there are hundreds more than ended up becoming bulimic, anorexic, hiding in a shell(like I did for awhile) and even people that end up committing suicide because they just can’t take it.”

      Exactly.

      Reply

  2. As an adult, I have struggled with my weight, and used to want to lose weight for the wrong reasons. But I finally came to the realization that I am me, whether I am 100 or 400 pounds. I have the same heart, values, and personality that I will have no matter what my weight.
    I too am working at getting healthier. During the process, I’m still me. =)

    Reply

    • I learned a long time ago that the only way to really change anything is to do it for yourself. I had the same issue with quitting smoking . . . I quit for family, friends . . . even for my daughter when I was pregnant (the second she weaned, I went back). It wasn’t until I quit for me that I stayed quit.

      I know that’s what weight loss has been such a struggle for me. I’ve only been doing it to please other people. Making the change for me is what will make the difference.

      Kudos to you for getting there!!! 🙂

      Reply

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